Megan Thee Stallion and Martin Brundle Give Us A Teachable Moment…
Everybody has a bad day and a cringable moment, especially if you have been around the high-octane world of celebrity, and athletes at any point. It is brutal having to be always on, and for many of those in the spotlight, making sure one has a trusted core team handling details, planning and avoiding distractions is key. Now in a world of excess, surrounding oneself with handlers, enablers, whatever you want to call them, is for some, an evolving rite of passage.
A few colleagues who have spent time on Radio Row at the Super Bowl would always watch in amazement at how some of the least recognizable celebrities and athletes had sometimes the biggest groups travelling with them from media stop to media stop…we even gave an unofficial award at the end of Super Bowl Week to the largest entourage (and named it after a former athlete who had the largest group with him several years in a row) spotted per year…and it usually could be as large as 12. The funniest thing is that some of the biggest names, the ones who would have potentially the biggest issues navigating a room, usually had the most compact and most efficient groups, and they were usually the most thoughtful and sometimes the most engaged, even after traversing that conference room for several hours doing what they were paid to do…an endorsement, support a cause or tell stories for whomever they were representing.
Those individuals had a trusted advisor or strategist with them who made the navigation as easy as possible and worked with the media to make the interaction was as interesting as possible for all. The best at the work made everyone feel important, and respected the job being done. Body language, questions to ask, preparedness, all are part of professionalism.
It isn’t easy, especially with some of the highest demand personalities, but then again, if you don’t take the time to do the diligence to make it easier for your client and what he/she/they is there to do, then don’t sign up for the work.
I was reminded, somewhat painfully of that lack of understanding during a chance trackside meeting between Megan Thee Stallion and legendary driver and longtime media personality Martin Brundle at the Formula 1 race Sunday in Austin, Texas. Brundle, was trackside as the hip hop star and her group were heading somewhere through the crowded VIP section. He tried to get a question in and was politely declined by the star after a smile and an answer. Her bodyguard did what he was supposed to do, make sure the situation is safe, then got in between to stop the questioning attempt. Fair game. However, then you had a “publicist” scoot by mocking Brundle and asserting his power to shut the reporter down.
A bad look for everyone.
The shutting down is not an issue, someone is there to keep things moving and if there was no interest in answering a few questions, then fine. Not the first, not the last. What was cringeworthy was the flippant way it was handled, without regard for any interaction or understanding of who was asking a question. It wasn’t helpful for anyone, and just helped to keep perpetuating stereotypes of what communications people do.
It reminded me of the scene in the film “Roadhouse,” where Patrick Swayze, playing the legendary “cooler” Dalton, keeps reminding his crew that it doesn’t take much to just be nice.
Be nice, be civil, don’t be demeaning.
It doesn’t take much to have an understanding of who is there, and even more importantly, understanding before the situation arose to let media know there was not going to be any opportunity at stopping by and answering questions.
It doesn’t take much to be nice, or at least civil.
Now to be clear, we have all been there, having to shut something down or deal with members of the public, of the media, who try and push too far. It’s not easy, and I can say from experience that there have been a few cringible moments early on in my career. It comes with the territory. And maybe this was a one-off misunderstanding, but regardless, being nice, or at least appearing to be nice to try and learn a bit and address a tense situation is also part of the job.
Now end of the day it was a soundbite into the give and take, somewhat adversarial, that “public relations” staffers go through. The best handle situations with balance. There doesn’t always have to be a no, but even when there is, there should be some decorum between both sides.
None of this was earth shattering news, and hopefully looking back maybe both sides had a teachable moment. Maybe the star loved the fact that her “team” pounced and shut some guy down. Maybe everyone was just trying to “do their job.”
However, in a business of people, no matter how much power you perceive you have, the relationships, even the slight ones should come first. It doesn’t mean you are disrespecting your client; it doesn’t mean you have to treat a credentialed and respected member of the media with disdain. It means you find a way to get the job done, because you never know when you may have another opportunity to make a first…or at least a better impression. And while being flippant might seem like the right thing to do, it’s a bad look that reflects on your client as well.
That comes with experience and a willingness to learn. On both sides.